Wednesday, May 3, 2017

May: Checking for Balance

Stones, Stone, Tower, Balance, Rock

Checking for Balance

Before you say this is not a quilting related post, ask yourself: "What stops me from doing the thing I love most?" Often it involves something you have control over at one time or another. Chances are it could have been done earlier, but the choice was made to do something else instead. Life is full of trade offs. Right? But if you're looking for more time in your life to do the things you want--quilting or sewing, for example, then stay tuned this month, and read on. We'll talk about why we collect some of the so-called baggage in our lives, and how to become free from it.  When problem areas take on a life of their own, it's our right to take control. We can give ourselves permission.

I am especially reaching out to those of you who feel the Merry-Go-Round hasn't slowed down since 2017 began, and like me you want to get off.  Early this year I made a plan to focus on the future, and create a long range schedule. I've spent 4 months making quilts for charity, and while several are still not done, it is time for change. May is my target month for winding down, and regaining equilibrium. It seems most timely while the seasons change to one of renewed growth. You may call it tuning in to Self or listening to an inner voice, but it's simply time to decide what is working well in life, and what could benefit from change. You might even question some things in your own life along the way. Change requires work on our parts now to make it easier later, but quilters are known for their long vision and perseverance. Join me!

Magnolia Trees, Springtime, Blossoms

People typically push resolutions or setting goals January 1, but it's one of the busiest and most stressful times of the year. I believe positive change happens when we make contemplative decisions, and ones we can commit to. It is helpful when this is a time of low stress, but not surprising, often we are pushed to make changes because something big in our life is not working well. 

The Impact of Quilting on 
Physical and Mental Health

I am a wife, mother, daughter, etc., and those are the fundamental parts of my life. I am also a quilter, artist, teacher, etc., and those parts need to comply. Who I am is first. What I do is second, but we may well argue that they are often one and same. I agree. To be able to talk about their relationship to each other, we will separate them here.

 External vs. Internal

My studio work is the most significant external impact on my life, and I'm looking for positive ways to support it. A simpler way is to say, "I love to sew and quilt, and I want to have more hours to devote to it while feeling less guilty that I should be doing something else." External influences are things I have more control over, and those are easier to modify. Internal influences like my role as wife, mother, etc., can be changed far less. We'll look at both parts, but the the focus will be on the most flexible portion.

External Influences

Quilting and studio work make up the largest portion of my free time so I will be talking about managing its impact this month. More than anything else, I have experienced its deep hold over my health both mental and physical.

The Well Known Side: Mental Benefits

Quilting is my therapy. It feeds my brain, and soothes my soul. A bad mood is crushed by cranking up the music and pulling fabric for a new quilt. A tangled problem can be solved in solitude and thought while meditating my way through strip piecing. Let's not forget to mention the social benefits of meeting with other quilters, color therapy in deep winter, and so on. The upside of quilting is well versed, but I want to address parts of the downside that we smooth over. 

Scale, Diet, Fat, Health, Tape, Weight

Quilting vs. Healthy Decisions
The Physical Side

One obvious thing I noted lately was my physical health was declining--better known as gaining fat and losing muscle. Can I publicly say Quilter's Butt is a real thing? I attest it happened to me this winter. Like anyone, I hated it! I don't like when my clothes get tight, and I was wearing a lot of stretchy leggings anyhow. Quilting doesn't involve a lot of strenuous activity. Pressing fabric is not aerobic exercise! But it does include many repetitive movements, and an often achy shoulder meant my excuse for sitting with a heating pad and Netflix was more valid than taking a walk with the dog. 

Many days I would work until meal time thinking I could get one more thing done, and then try to throw together something quickly for dinner. Better yet--or worse, we'd opt to go out. That would further compound it by adding twice the calories, and consuming the time I might have used for exercise. 

Positive Change #1:
Let's Get Up & Move

We started small. Both Lucy and I needed time to build up our endurance after such a lag. She's a 9 year old Australian shepherd with health problems, and tolerates about a mile at a time. We've kept right around 1-1.5 miles for a while, and the vet can see a difference. It's not huge, but we're moving on a regular schedule of several times a week. Slow and steady wins the race.

Gluten Free, Gluten, Wheat, Grain

Positive Change #2:
Changing My Health Through Food

Close friends know I found out several years ago that removing gluten from my diet made an enormous impact on my health. It was an accidental discovery while doing an elimination diet, and for me meant freedom from joint pain after many years. I have a laundry list of food allergies, but few have the impact of gluten. For many years I was strict about it, and my health showed it. But a nibble led to a bite, and then to a tiny whole cookie, etc., and finally back to the point I'd been at years before. My knee hurt so badly it was hard to climb the stairs to my studio, and I was choosing a nap instead of sewing time. I had to take control of both my weight and my food allergies.

Healthy Eating Is An Individual Thing

I am not giving health or dietary advice nor am I qualified. Each of us is able to do our own research or seek professional help to determine the best eating plan for good health. Mine involves no gluten, and fewer carbohydrates with higher fat. I can think clearly, and I have less pain. It also allows me to lose weight, and that makes it easier to move. Your eating plan may not resemble mine at all, but be ideal for your health. The most important thing of all is to do something positive that supports your own health, and provides your body, brain, and soul with energy.

First for Seeking Balance

  • Be aware of the role food plays in how I feel. 
  • Eat healthy foods when I'm hungry.
  • Drink more water.
  • Choose to move with Lucy.

These may not seem like lofty goals, but they are a major shift in consciousness for me. Choosing to be honest with myself, and actually addressing the problem is one of the largest roadblocks I face. It's far easier to say I'll think about that problem later, and then I don't make time. If I want to enjoy what I do--quilt and sew, I have to be okay with who I am. 

Is it time in your life to address the 
Who and What? 
Just thinking about it is a good start!

Can you make one small change to support
the health of your body, brain, or soul?

I'd love to hear from you if you want to share
something simple which makes a difference
in your own life. If it's time to get back to it,
Join Me!

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.


Kathy said...

Making a positive change to take care of your body is a big least it was for me! Keep up the good work!

Anja @ Anja Quilts said...

Yes!!! I worked so many hours of overtime in April. Sewing, exercise, and good eating went out the window. May is a new month!!! I need to get back into a regular routine. WE CAN DO IT!!!!

The Colorful Fabriholic said...

Committing to making the change is the first step, but every journey starts with a first step. Several years ago I wanted to lose weight for my son's wedding. I started making healthier food choices and watching portion sizes. Then I added exercise - just walking on a treadmill at first, then going to the gym every day. I've stuck with those small changes - commitments I made to myself - and after seven years the weight is still off, I still eat healthy, I still work out. We can each only make changes for ourselves, but when we do, we reap the benefits. Best wishes for the success of your changes.

Julie said...

I will, Kathy. It's amazing how much better I feel after just a few weeks, and that is the best incentive. Thank you.

Julie said...

Oh, I was so excited to hear you say "WE"! Yes, we'll be the encouragement and support for each other. Let's make May count for good things.

Julie said...

Everything you say is so true. We have to be the ones to initiate the change, and incrementally is easier to accept than an all or nothing. Congratulations for the commitment to your own health and well-being. That's no small thing to say you've kept it off for 7 years. It's wonderful to hear, and you are an excellent role model for us all! Thank you for sharing your story here.

Unknown said...

I put my design board in a different room from my sewing machine and my ironing board. Then I put the iron and sewing machine as far apart as the room allows. I end up doing quite a bit of walking when I quilt this way.

Sew Surprising said...

Beautifully said, and fully agree with everything, finding balance isnt as hard as we thought :)

Julie said...

This is a great idea! I think your ideas would also make you a more productive quilter as you would be accustomed to working in batches.

I purchased a travel size ironing board for using next to my sewing machine, but swore I would only use it if it was a block that needed pressing with each seam, i.e. log cabin blocks. It's there, but not yet opened. And may I add that the longer I sit, the more I hunch over. It makes my back very sore around my shoulder blade area. Any ideas for a chair conducive to good posture?

Julie said...

You have truly been an inspiration to me these past months while I've thrown this idea around. Thank you, Jan. But you and I both agree it takes getting off your duff to look for it. ;-)

Stitchin At Home said...

Healthy choices are not always easy choices, but the results are so worth it. Everything in moderation, when we deprive ourselves of something we crave it more. You can do this!

PaulaB quilts said...

I had gastric bypass surgery for excess weight. The most important change I made then was listening carefully to my body to know when I've had enough and stop eating right then. Usually I only eat one third of what's on my plate. I stop and continue later on, eating many small balanced portions a day, including protein. I lost 115 pounds seven years ago and have never gone more than ten pounds over that. People remark on my frequent eating, but I listen to my body, not to them.

Rebecca Grace said...

This is so timely for me, Julie! I feel pulled in so many directions that I'm not getting in enough quilting time for my mental health, though. I've been spending too many hours in front of my computer for one thing, too much running around doing errands (which burns far fewer calories than running around the block), and I'm just generally overcommitted. What else is new! But I was intrigued by what you said about gluten and joint pain. I've had arthritis in my knees for well over a decade. The doctor has given me exercises, told me to watch my weight, and prescribed Meloxicam. But no one ever told me to try eliminating gluten!

Julie said...

The relationship between food and inflammation is fairly well documented, and in my family tested out again every day. I just did a quick google and came up with many pages. For one that is mainstream and not advertising, try The Arthritis Foundation.

Dairy is another culprit for many, and you may look into that closer. It may be a few months before you feel better, and in some cases you can go through a kind of withdraw with severe cravings. IMHO, it's hard work to figure out if you do have a food trigger, but worth it. And some people don't feel 100% better, but much better off the food than on. You might check into the different kinds of blood work testing to help you identify a potential problem food.

I'm sad you are experiencing that kind of pain, Rebecca, but hope this gives you new strategies on personal wellness.

Kate @ Smiles From Kate said...

This is an interesting and thought provoking post, and I agree with much of what you have said. Last summer I was doing great, my diet was healthy I was walking my dogs every day and life was good. Then I got concussion then my mother in law died and in January I almost lost my Dad. Recently I have been noticing how unhealthily I am now eating, I have gained ten pounds and I get my husband to walk the dogs most days. So I'm joining you, time to change. Thank you for the reminder, it's the kick I need.

Myra @ Busy Hands Quilts said...

I am happy for the progress you've made in taking care of yourself. Food really does make a difference in joint pain and mood. I'm living proof and am a whole new person after doing the Elimination Diet from December to March and discovering that potatoes, gluten, corn and beef are triggers for me. It's not hard to avoid these things when I wake up without pain every morning and am so happy and like myself again.

Sarah Goer Quilts said...

This whole post really spoke to me. "I love to sew and quilt, and I want to have more hours to devote to it while feeling less guilty that I should be doing something else." Yes yes yes! I struggle with balance and I'll be taking a sewing break in June (eek! okay, maybe just a BIG slow down) to get on top of some other things in life/the household. I recently started seeing a PT to get some specific stretching exercises to help with my pain. That has been helpful. And I bought a fitbit to help gamify the movement that I know I should be getting every day, but have a hard time making it a priority.

Kate said...

You are definitely hitting all of my high points from the last year. I decided last June that getting healthier was a must, but any changes had to be sustainable. After a few diet tweaks and an increase in weekly activity, I'm 47 lbs lighter. Quilting is sanity, so some days I have to settle for just 15 minutes, but that's enough most days to keep me on an even keel. It's a challenge to keep the commitment, but boy is it worth it. A great post!

Julie said...

I'm glad for your renewed strength, Kate. I really feel for what you've gone through. Any one of the things you spoke about would be hard, but to feel the wave keep pushing you down again is tough. Getting beat up inside is every bit as hard as outside. I hope you find ways to heal and feel better, and I'll be thinking of you.

Julie said...

And I am so happy for you! I don't remember a time in my adult life when I didn't have some kind of joint pain, and figuring out the gluten part was pure accident. A hurting person is not a happy person either. I think letting people know it's possible through healthy eating is important, and I'm so glad you chimed in. The difference is so shocking, and yes, it's a world of difference in loving ourselves again. Thanks, Myra.

Julie said...

Sarah, it sounds like you and I are on similar paths, but strangely it's more than just us, I think. We do need breaks from routine. We do need to keep up with other things and people than just quilting and quilty friends. I have days I don't go to the studio at all, and it's okay. Blogging breaks are just as needed, though few of us do that. Getting out for a walk is as much mental as physical release from our stresses there. I'm intrigued by your Fitbit as some of my kids use them or similar devices. I have used my iPhone to track steps, but not much else. I'll have to give that some thought.

I want to mention that Sandra at mmm! Quilts does a Sunday Stretch for Sewists once a month, and it's so good to go back through those posts. She's obviously a wonderful yoga instructor as well as talented quilter, and has given so much of herself toward helping others find balance. There may be something specific in those posts to help you as well.

Be well.

Julie said...

Kate, what an amazing transformation you have gone through! Sustainable is the word I'm hearing when you say even keel, tweaks and increase. You seem to have found a good balance this past year, and I'm so happy for you getting there. I am going to hold you up as my role model. It's not a race for me. It's just getting up every day and doing it better than I was. The little changes now will make big changes over time. Thank you so much!

helenjean@midgetgemquilts said...

Funny enough my husband is always telling me that although he understands my need to quilt I have to make room in my life too for exercises